Travis Manawa is not Rick Grimes. Not even close.

Cliff Curtis admits his character in Fear the Walking Dead, the Walking Dead spin-off, which returns for its second season on Monday, is "the least likely to survive an apocalypse".

But the Kiwi actor hopes that's about to change.

"This guy is not going to cut it. There are much more capable characters than mine. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that trend continues in season two," he says.


"I am hoping he gets his act together or he is not going to make it through to season three."

Across its short six-episode first season, Fear the Walking Dead rewound to the beginning of the apocalypse and honed in on the survival of Manawa and his blended family: wife Madison (Kim Dickens), daughter Alicia, and sons Nick and Christopher, along with ex-wife Liza, barber Daniel and his daughter Ofelia, and a mysterious magician called Victor.

Curtis describes his role in season one as being "gormless in the face of the impending apocalypse".

"It's a bit like pantomime. 'Behind you! The apocalypse is coming! My character looks left and right, What apocalypse? I don't see an apocalypse.' It's a bit like that."

But after escaping their suburban prison, reuniting with wayward son Nick, and joining forces with other survivors, the group finds a boat and heads out to sea. Season two kicks off with them discovering things aren't really safer on the water.

Curtis goes as far as claiming the second season is a "different show".

Cliff Curtis as Travis and Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar in Fear the Walking Dead. Photo / Richard Foreman / AMC
Cliff Curtis as Travis and Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar in Fear the Walking Dead. Photo / Richard Foreman / AMC

"The characters have changed significantly. We're no longer confused by what's going on, we're all gearing up and getting into survival mode on a much more heightened level," he says.

"Travis has different priorities now. He's making much tougher decisions; much more focused than in the first season when he was holding on to his idealism and striving to be a good man all the time. He's had to rethink that."

The first episode sets things up nicely, with Alicia making contact with what could be a rogue boat, while zombies float by like debris from a nearby capsized vessel.

"The scripts are real page-turners," says Curtis.

"I think being on the water brings so much new stuff to this world. It's so distinct and so rich in terms of how it creates a totally new feeling for the show and for the characters. I mean, the ocean itself is terrifying!"

FTWD is Curtis' highest-profile US television role yet. It's one that comes with a vocal fanbase.

"The fans of this franchise are so rabid. They want guys who can get out there and take zombies out with lots of kills. Which is not my guy. He is not that dude. So I spend a lot of time arguing with people about what is the right thing to do.

"That is my typical day: trying to be a good guy, which is really annoying in this world."

When and where: Monday, 9.30pm, SoHo; also streaming on Neon.
What: Time for Cliff Curtis to get his hands dirty in series two.